New sloth exhibit allows visitors to get up-close and personal
Chewbacca is a pretty popular sloth.
Ever since Tanganyika Wildlife Park first introduced the young sloth in late April, Chewbacca has been the darling of the park.
He's made appearances on local television networks and the park's social media channels — all while living in a nursery enclosure.
Now this upwardly mobile sloth has landed some spacious new digs — and he's inviting guests to stop by his crib.
Tanganyika Wildlife Park has officially opened a new sloth home for Chewbacca attached to its Troublemakers Cove addition.
People can book behind-the-scenes tours, called "A Close Encounter of the Slow Kind," inside Chewbacca's enclosure in which they'll get to feed and pet the sloth for $50 per person. Tours are available daily at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. — the times "when he's a little more active," said Matt Fouts, assistant director at Tanganyika.
"They pretty much spend 18 hours a day sleeping and the rest of the time eating. ... There's never a guarantee (he'll be active)," Fouts said. "We don't ever make them do anything they don't want to do, so the experience may vary a bit.
"You'll still get to be close and pet the sloth (if he's asleep)."
Chewbacca was born at Branson's Promised Land Zoo, an interactive park similar to Tanganyika. As a result, he's "grown up around people, so it's not a big deal for him."
He's visible through a window to all park-goers.
Tanganyika plans on adding more sloths in the future, Fouts said — perhaps for an outdoor exhibit.
"Maybe we could get him a girlfriend when he gets a little older and have some sloth babies of our own," he said. "Because they've gotten so popular, they've also gotten expensive."
Sloths are having a moment right now in popular culture.
Some would argue the slow-moving animals stole the show in the animated "Ice Age" series, as well as in 2016's "Zootopia."
Infamously, actress Kristen Bell shared a teary-eyed video in 2012 after she was gifted a sloth.
Tanganyika Wildlife Park at 1000 S. Hawkins Lane in Goddard is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Labor Day, when hours change. Admission is $19.99 for ages 12 and up, $14.99 for ages 3-11, and $15.99 for ages 60-89. Children 2 or younger and seniors 90 or older are free.